Rohit Sharma scored his fourth T20 international century – the most by anybody – to seal the series win for India.
A festive crowd on the eve of Diwali sold out the debuting Ekana Stadium in Lucknow, and were treated to fabulous T20 batting. Rohit had to suss out an unknown pitch, overcome its slowness, and compensate for a scratchy effort from Shikhar Dhawan at the other end. He cleared the massive boundaries – all over 75m – seven times, and contributed 57% of India’s runs even though he faced only 50% of the balls.
Missing their best players once again, West Indies made it worse for themselves, dropping two catches, bowling two no-balls, eight wides and conceding overthrows. They made big tactical errors too, bowling two overs of spin inside the Powerplay, thus giving up the advantage of the massive boundaries. Here without any openers in the squad, they were always going to struggle to chase 196.
A sold-out stadium had waited patiently for the 7pm start. What’s one more over to them? For the first time in his T20 career, Rohit played out a maiden at the top of an innings. The crowd got impatient, chanting his name, but he knew what he was doing. Rohit was assessing the conditions, and refusing to play a low percentage shot against West Indies’ form bowler, the quick Oshane Thomas. Despite a no-ball from Keemo Paul in the second over, India didn’t hit a single boundary in the first three overs and had scored only 11.
Spin breaks shackles
Usually the second half of Powerplay are pressure overs for bowlers because that’s when batsmen look to cash in after a steady start. On a pitch with no turn, Carlos Brathwaite was putting left-arm spinner Khary Pierre in the line of fire. Rohit lofted him first ball over mid-off. When mid-off went back, he hit Pierre for a six over mid-on. Thomas at the other end bowled a no-ball, and India were up and running. What was shaping up to be a lean Powerplay gave them 49 runs. Then Paul dropped Dhawan, Brathwaite dropped short once too often, and India reached 78 in nine overs.
Brief quiet but then explosion
Fabien Allen and Paul managed to bowl the next four overs for 29 runs, which featured Dhawan struggling to force the pace. The harder he tried to hit, the worse he timed the ball. In the 14th over, though, Rohit took matters in his own hands. He was 59 off 42 when he began to slog-sweep Allen. Until now he had played mostly down the ground, but he had also realised there was no turn that he would be hitting against. Successive sixes put West Indies under pressure, and even with the fall of Dhawan and Rishabh Pant there was no stopping Rohit.
Brathwaite and Pierre were treated the worst by Rohit and KL Rahul, who dominated strike early on in their 28-ball partnership. A single off the last ball of the 19th over – with Rohit on 92 – left Rahul frustrated, but Rohit put him at ease and asked him to keep going for it and not worry about the hundred. However, the strike came back to Rohit with five balls to go in the innings. A wide full toss went straight of short third man, and then a straight one was ramped over short fine to bring up the hundred. When Brathwaite managed to get a dot in, he undid it with four overthrows. Rohit then smacked Brathwaite over long-off to take the West Indies captain’s tally past 50.
Khaleel causes early damage
With Bhuvneshwar Kumar back, Rohit held back Jasprit Bumrah for the second half of the Powerplay and then the second half of the innings. Khaleel Ahmed got the new ball, and quickly accounted for West Indies’ two best batsmen from the ODI series. Playing out of position, both Shai Hope and Shimron Hetmyer fell trying to force the pace against accurate bowling. West Indies 39 for 2 in the sixth over.
Kuldeep, Bumrah seal the win
West Indies’ familiar nemesis then came back to quell any fight that might have been left. Kuldeep Yadav removed Darren Bravo and Nicholas Pooran in the same over; Bravo off the outside edge and another sensational slip catch by Rohit, and Pooran bowled through the gate with a wrong’un. Bumrah was then brought back to get rid of Kieron Pollard, a short ball accounting for the batsman. From 68 for 5 in the 11th over, the rest of the innings was all about finding out what ends first: West Indies’ wickets or overs. It went close, with No. 11 Thomas nearly run out off the last ball of the innings.
Scorecard: India 195 for 2 (Rohit 111*, Dhawan 43) beat West Indies 124 for 9 (Bhuvneshwar 2-12) by 71 runs